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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Heather N Pool
POL S 201
Seattle Campus

Introduction to Political Theory

Philosophical bases of politics and political activity. Provides an introduction to the study of politics by the reading of a few books in political philosophy. Organized around several key political concepts, such as liberty, equality, justice, authority, rights, and citizenship. Offered: AWSpS.

Class description

Using primary texts from the Western canon of political thought, we will consider a variety of possible relationships between life, death, and politics. What sort of life is worth living, and how should politics be ordered to enable us to achieve that life? Questions of life and death are of universal concern; is politics similarly broad? How do we decide when it is appropriate to court death to achieve a life worth living? Should politics secure bare life and nothing more? In essence, how do we determine when it is right to put our lives on the line for political reasons – or rather, how do we determine when the collective good (of which politics should be an expression) is a good for which we would give our lives? We will engage with a variety of authors – Antigone, Plato, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Marx, Fanon, Arendt and Kateb – who seek to persuade us about the proper relationship between life, death, and politics.

Student learning goals

Students will improve critical reading skills by working through difficult primary texts.

Students will develop public speaking skills by speaking out in class.

Students will develop academic and argumentative writing skills by preparing three formal papers.

Students will be able to articulate how political theory differs from other subfields of political science.

General method of instruction

This class will consist of lecture three times a week and quiz sections two times a week. In lecture, the goal will be to consider the authors' attempts to answer the question posed in the description, but students will have the opportunity to discuss these works in more depth in quiz sections. Students are strongly encouraged to attend all sections.

Recommended preparation

There are no prerequisites for this course, and all students interested in the relationship between ideas and politics are welcome. All that is necessary is a willingness to patiently work through (very) challenging primary texts.

Class assignments and grading

The majority of students' grades will come from three 4-6 page papers assigned over the course of the quarter.

Quiz Section participation (25%) and three papers (Paper 1 20%, Paper 2 25%, Paper 3 30%)


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Heather N Pool
Date: 03/03/2013